The Clearinghouse of Choreography


A Note about Solo/Ensemble Notation

Many handbell solo and ensemble pieces were published before the choreography notation was "standardized". As a result, sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what the published instructions really mean!

In an attempt to avoid this type of confusion, the Clearinghouse of Choreography uses notational devices and terminology as outlined in:

Handbell Notation, Difficulty Level System, Solo and Ensemble Notation,
published by the AGEHR (Code No. R100)

and in:

Ringers Guide to Traveling Four-in-Hand Notation,
Companion to Nancy Hascall's Virtuoso Solo Series
published by Above the Line Publishing.

Some Tips & Tricks

When working on a published solo, remember that the printed choreography, like the choreography on this site, is just a suggestion for how to ring the piece. There's no single "right way"! What works for one person may or may not work for someone else. The important thing is to analyze the piece and see what techniques — whether Traveling 4Ih or weaving or (more likely) some combination of the two — might be appropriate to facilitate a truly musical rendering of the printed notes.

When using 4iH or Shelley, remember that bells can be removed from and/or added to clusters while they are ringing, that is, while in the air, rather than on the table. For example, you can pass a bell from the secondary position in the left hand to the primary position in the right. Or pick up a bell in the secondary position and add another bell to the primary position after ringing it with the other hand.

You can damp anywhere. As Christine Anderson says, "If it's soft and it's yours, you can damp on it." It's true! Shoulder, tummy, backside, table (foam), all are fair game! When deciding on the best place to damp a particular bell, pay attention to the gracefulness of your motion as you damp as well as when you ring. Finger damping is a wonderful way to preserve grace and fluidity of motion while still damping at the appropriate time.

Speaking of damping, don't over-do it. You want to avoid "choppiness" in your playing. Damping a note too early, even by what seems like a minuscule amount, can sound too dry, or "choppy" to the audience. Use your ears to tell you how much damping is appropriate. Sometimes it's ok to let a note hang over past the written note value — pianists don't lift their pedals to damp after every single note they play, so why should we?

Video tape yourself practicing! This is one of the most helpful things you can do. By watching yourself, you can see what the audience will see & can fix any irregularities before you play in public. You can also hear if you're playing legato or choppy. Watch the video a few times — both with the printed music as a reference and without — and focus on just a few elements at each viewing.

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All content © 2003 through 2010 Michèle Sharik and unless otherwise noted.

Original "Golden Dancer" figure by Elizabeth Kennedy.

"Scribble Dancer" figure by Gretchen Rauch.

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